I swallowed hard. I didn’t know what a drink meant. Just a drink? A date? Was it sex? I started going through my head, trying to think of reasons why it was a bad idea. My legs were shaved, did my bra and underwear match? Did I have a condom? I had taken the pill this morning, even though my last boyfriend and I had broken up months ago. I hadn’t been with a guy, let alone a man, in a long time.
Don’t flatter yourself, I quickly thought. What makes you think he’d be interested in you that way?
“Yes,” I said when I finally found my voice. “Yes, I would like that.”
A spark flashed in his eyes, lighting them up in such a way that made my toes literally curl. Damn. I was in trouble with this man. “Any way you can get out of your duties sooner?” he asked.
I couldn’t help but smile, raising my brow at his presumptuousness, while simultaneously trying to hide the fact that I was freaking out. I looked around the room and tried to judge how likely it was that someone would notice if I was gone. My mom was still surrounded by a wall of people and no one was paying any attention to us, standing by the windows, already removed.
A sad thought hit me, sliding past before I could really dwell on it: no one even notices when I’m here.
“If we’re quick and sneaky,” I told him.
“Being quick isn’t in my repertoire,” he said, “but I could give it a shot.”
Again. Damn. I wasn’t one to blush but I could feel my cheeks heating up and hoped my skin supressed the flush. He was so much older than me in so many ways, the last thing I wanted was to appear the na?ve schoolgirl.
And I didn’t know what to say to that. He was staring at me with those dark eyes, a look so intense yet sparkling with charm and something…wicked.
I’d never find out how wicked they could be.
“Ronnie!” A melodic, ultra-feminine voice sliced through the moment like an unwieldy machete, causing me to flinch, my fingers tightening around the stem of the glass.
Oh no, I thought. Not now.
Logan’s head swiveled toward the sound of the voice, like a hound picking up a scent. I didn’t bother looking over, I kept my focus on him, watching his expression intently. It changed, as I knew it would.
She had walked into the room.
He saw her.
And like it was for so many men, that look of lust I had thought was for me, was now for her.
That’s when I knew it was over. Whatever thing I had felt for him, it didn’t matter anymore, not when she was in the room. Nothing ever mattered as long as she was around.
I might have saw him first.
But he was all hers after that.
Seven Years Later
“Miss, are you done with that?”
I can feel the man in the seat next to mine subtly elbowing me until I turn my head and glance up at the flight attendant. She’s nodding at the nearly finished glass of Mai Tai on my tray table, the very reason why my response time is epically slow.
“Uh, almost,” I tell her with a smile that I hope looks sober and pick up the thin plastic cup so she won’t snatch it away.
Not that it really matters—I’ve had four syrupy cocktails in the last six hours. From the moment I boarded the Alaska Airlines flight heading out of Seattle for Lihue, I’ve been drinking my nerves away. It doesn’t help that the Mai Tais on this flight have been free the last two hours, even for us poor people in coach. It seems the airline wants everyone to get excited about the impending paradise, and drinks are on the house.
I finish the rest of the cocktail while she patiently waits, the sticky sweetness of rum and fruit-juice puckering my tongue, and hand her the empty glass. I immediately bring my attention back to the window, not wanting to miss a thing.
We’ve already passed over Maui as we started our descent, a brilliant color show of red and green, ochre and sienna, and now we’re over the ocean between the islands, the water a shimmering aqua that seems so alive and hypnotic I can barely tear my eyes away.
I can’t believe I’m doing this.
Those words won’t stop ringing in my head. They started when I began packing a week ago and haven’t stopped since. I’ve always been so organized, so planned, so careful with my life, and now I’m heading to Hawaii of all places based on nothing more than a promise and hope for the future.
I never thought my future would have me way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on one of the most isolated places in the world. Beyond the eight islands lies 1,860 miles of empty ocean before the nearest continent. To know I’ll be staying here is a sobering, terrifying thought.